Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kaplan gets it

In this month's Trot Magazine, Daryl Kaplan opines on a future report of the industry to Gerry Philips, the minister in charge of racing in the Province of Ontario.

In general, he touches on several topics we tackle here on the blog: Money flow into the industry and how it needs to be focused on growth of the sport, not just redistribution, for redistribution sake.

In its current form, billions of dollars continue to flow through Ontario’s industry, yet the money doesn’t seem to, in any meaningful way, impact the future growth of horse racing in the province.

From many industry insiders with their hands on the purse-strings we hear constantly about the breeding industry. That is fine and dandy and certainly of some importance, but where did it get us? Does it matter to you if you bet a horse who goes in 151 instead of 150? Have you ever bet on a horse because of who he had sexual relations with? A strong breeding industry is important, but it is not the be all and end all.

Customers, seeking big pools and fair payouts, are tempted by American common-pool tracks because the Ontario offerings seem to worsen, from a pari-mutuel perspective, daily. And the Woodbine/Mohawk harness circuit, by far the most viable wagering product in Ontario, is forced to cut days because the standardbred horse population unconscionably flows to other Ontario jurisdictions.

Does the horse racing industry have the will to develop an optimal approach to its overall purse pool and horse population, utilizing those resources as a tool, not an obstacle, to create the best possible product for current and potential customers?

Absolutely. This screams to go two ways 1) Protectionism, by restricting offerings to players to force them to play your product (a dead wrong way to go - we all know that people will not play Woodstock if they are forced to or not) or 2) Purse Pooling: Changing the mix in Ontario so tracks like Woodbine do not get hurt by smaller tracks peeling entries, tracks do not race many days in front of no one, and so on. The ORC is willing to listen to point 2. I wish we would get off our butts and present something along those lines, before the government does it for us.

Racing can similarly not survive long-term on slot machines. At some point, a marginalized horse racing industry will become an unnecessary appendage to massive gaming operations – both bricks and mortar and online.

Racing can only live to fight another day with a structure that dedicates massive funding efforts to research and development on the product and wagering side. In England, where betting exchanges have revolutionized horse wagering, the growing popularity of in-race betting is astounding. Who’s looking into it?

I think we all know this is true. What we can do, or could have done with over $2 billion of slots cash would boggle the mind. It could have at the very least restored some pride in the business and lit a fire under us. It seems to us here on the blog, that no one is minding the store. Where is the leadership? Where is the 21st century thinking?

I encourage people interested to read the whole piece, linked above.

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